Ethics Whistle On The Post’s Dana Milbank…So Blood Won’t Shoot Out My Nose

I know just how you feel, Lewis...

I know just how you feel, Lewis…

I was going to ignore this, I really was. Most Washington Post readers know Dana Milbank is a hard left, often unstable partisan reporter pretending to be an objective analyst. Most also know that he is prone to jump the rails of logic, fairness and reality from time to time, like here, when he blamed a “scandal of the week” mentality on the press and Republicans, and not the fact that the incompetent Obama Administration averages a scandal a week…or here, when he called millennials selfish for not supporting their President’s misbegotten health insurance scheme and acting in their own interests rather than their President’s political interests.

But his most recent column was churning around in my brain like Lewis Black’s routine about overhearing a young woman say, at a table next to him in a restaurant, “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.” ( Black: “Now, I’m gonna repeat that, because it bears repeating. “If it weren’t for my horse…” as in, giddyup, giddyup, let’s go — ‘I wouldn’t have spent that year in college,’ which is a degree-granting institution. Don’t think about that too long, or BLOOD will shoot out your NOSE!”) Milbank’s columns are often like that for me, and this one, expressing his outrage that the Republicans are trying to repeal what’s left of the estate, or “death tax,” was one of the worst. So you can regard this post as saving my life, if you wish.

I have no philosophical objection to taxing rich people, none at all. However, I have a very great ethical disagreement with those, like Milbank, who seem to think that there is something so sinister about parents trying to amass wealth for their kids that it justifies the government laying claim to what they have achieved, grown and saved through their own had work and responsible decisions. This was the ethic that drove our grandparents, great grandparents and great grandparents to build values, families, businesses, communities and a nation.  Making life better and easier for their children than it was for them was a virtue, and properly recognized as such.

Many studies, out of fashion now and suppressed in academia because they are politically incorrect, have suggested that poverty persists through generations  in part because of the acculturated lack of a future time perspective among some groups, which is a nice way of saying that when people seek instant gratification and don’t save and invest their assets, they become poor and stay poor. It is essential to progressive cant that there are no differences between successful people and unsuccessful people…not intelligence, talent, diligence, industry or ambition…just opportunity and privilege, or the lack of them.* People really believe this, especially the people I see in worn-out clothes buying 30 bucks worth of lottery tickets at a pop in the 7-11 rather than saving the cash to get some job training, or start a college fund for their children, who, this being the D.C. area, probably don’t live with him anyway. No, there’s nothing these unfortunates can do to better their lot, you see. Meanwhile, the government preys on their present-time proclivities by creating rigged lotteries to take their money from them.

Of course, someone born into a wealthy, two-parent, stable and supportive family is equally deluded to think, as the late Texas governor Ann Richards once said derisively of George H.W. Bush, that he hit a triple when in fact he was born on third base. That still does not mean, as Milbank seems to think, that there is something wrong and undesirable about  American’s parents working and sacrificing to make sure their children aren’t left sitting on the bench, or can’t even get in the park to see the game. Milbank, like the lock-step progressive he is, believes that every individual in every generation should have to start life without any competitive advantages over anyone else, and if that means giving his competitors a head start, or making him run with weights on his feet, or tripping him at the start of the race, well, too bad, and too bad for his parents.

That’s fairness to our many Milbanks. To me, fair is for each individual to be able to make the most of what life and luck  provides, through their own abilities and efforts, with the help and assistance of parents and family being a a vital and respected inheritance that reinforces a duty and obligation to do the same for the next generation.

Anyone is free to see it differently. What should not be tolerated are statements like this, by Milbank:

“The current exemption of $5.4 million (the current estate tax has an effective rate averaging under 17 percent, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center) does little to prevent a permanent aristocracy from growing — and abolishing it entirely turns democracy into kleptocracy. The kleptocrats offer all sorts of bogus justifications for giving away $269 billion to a few thousand of the wealthiest Americans.”

That’s just a lie, and it is a lie that springs from a dangerous mindset.  The government has no right to that 269 billion.  It isn’t “giving away” anything if it decides taking it is bad policy. Milbank’s distortion is the model that the United States was created to reject, the assumption that the monarch owned everything, and that mere citizens kept their property by his leave. American citizens earned that money, and were already taxed on it, in many cases more than once.

I won’t argue that the government, being hopelessly in debt and lacking leadership with the courage and resolve to live within its means, desperately needs that money (and a lot more). I won’t even argue that there are better places for it to come from, or people who can sustain the loss more easily. Yup, it’s true: just as Willie Sutton explained that he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is,” the government reasonably seeks to tax the wealthy for the same reason. But the government doesn’t own that money, and not taking what doesn’t belong to it is not “giving away” anything. Milbank’s distortion, which we can expect to hear ad nauseum from Hillary in the coming months, is designed to condition Americans to think like peasants. Those whose brain surfaces arn’t inadequate (see the note below) have an ethical obligation to call this lie out and protest it.

This is the kind of verbal brainwashing that the biased news media does so well, and so shamelessly. It is an effort to win weak arguments by using dishonest terms that decide an issue before it has been fairly debated. The worst example, one that I hear or read literally every day, is the use of “immigrants” and “immigration” for “illegal immigrants” and “illegal immigration.” One is not the other. Yes, America was built by immigrants, but not illegal immigrants. Those sane, responsible Americans who oppose efforts to romanticize, reward and enable illegal immigration are not anti-immigration.

I actually keep a list. I started it years ago. It has well over a hundred reporters, pundits and elected officials on it—also some Facebook friends: anyone who intentionally uses the legal, honorable words for those denoting illegal and unethical conduct can’t be trusted and shouldn’t be, either because they are liars, or because they are stupid.

And yes, I have a personal perspective on the issue of estate taxes. My parents were dead-center middle class in every way. I earned more in my first job than my father had earned in any job for the first 45 years of his life. When they died, my sister and I were shocked how much money they had in their estate. By pure luck, that estate was not decimated by the estate tax, as it would have been just a few years earlier. They amassed all that money by buying everything on sale; by buying nothing on credit; by driving to places rather than flying; be seldom eating out; by cutting coupons; by investing carefully. My dad was a Depression kid, abandoned by his father: he was determined that he would make sure his children didn’t have to go through school working nights. My mother was one of eight children born to Greek immigrants; her father was a cook. The family grew a lot of what they ate in the back yard. All her adult life, Mom regarded every cent she spent on herself as being at the expense of her unborn grandchildren.

That unexpected estate allowed my own family to get out from under a predatory 9% mortgage. It enabled me to keep Ethics Alarms going, and to pursue ethics as a field, as non-lucrative as it is if you’re not willing to prostitute yourself. It enabled me to contribute my time to The American Century Theater, which has enriched the cultural lives of many thousands of families in the D.C. area. It will allow my son to pursue his dreams as well. The estates of the super-rich are no less legitimate legacies for their families, and the government’s claim that it can spend that money more efficiently and beneficially is laughable: no family (the kind that the class-baiting Milbank sneers at as “aristocracy”) can spend as incompetently as Uncle Sam and stay wealthy for long.

So yes, my family members have been beneficiaries of an estate, and damn Milbank and anyone who says that it was a gift of love and sacrifice from anyone but my hard-working, ethical, responsible and patriotic parents. The nation can decide to tax what it must, but the origin of that money remains the people, not the sovereign.  If the government decides not to take as much as it once did, or wishes it could, that isn’t giving back anything. If a thief chooses not to rob me, I’m not saying “thanks, and bless you.” The efforts by Milbank and others to distort that truth must be exposed and condemned, or a lot of people with inadequate brain surfaces are going to be persuaded.

There. I feel better.

* NOTE: Yesterday a study was released showing that infants born to poor people have a smaller brain service that those born to more successful parents. The researchers and the media have instantly interpreted this to mean that “Stress from Poverty Decreases Child Brain Sizes,” as PBS put it. No one I have read has had the audacity to even suggest that the most logical conclusion may explain the phenomenon: unsuccessful people tend to be less intelligent than successful people, even though the researchers don’t understand how poverty would effect brain size to this extent. Thus does confirmation bias and partisan blindness reduce society’s brain surface.]

 

30 thoughts on “Ethics Whistle On The Post’s Dana Milbank…So Blood Won’t Shoot Out My Nose

  1. Wow! I’m saving this to deploy next time my liberal Gen X nephew goes off on one of his “hate the rich” rants.
    He, by the way, has been a lifetime beneficiary of his grandparents (my parents and grandparents) frugal and provident lives.

  2. Many studies, out of fashion now and suppressed in academia because they are politically incorrect, have suggested that poverty persists through generations in part because of the acculturated lack of a future time perspective among some groups, which is a nice way of saying that when people seek instant gratification and don’t save and invest their assets, they become poor and stay poor.

    These studies should get some consideration. On the other hand, there are alternative views, such as this one by Walter E. Williams .

    There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of examples in which the economic game is rigged. Instead of focusing on what’s claimed to be an unfair income distribution, we need to examine whether there is injustice in the rules of the economic game.

    I do not believe that the estate tax per se would be an injustice in the economic game; it would only be so if it was passed with the explicit goal of depriving people of wealth (rather than merely maximizing revenuw). A zero estate tax would not be an unjust rule.

    • Of course, depriving people of wealth is Milbank’s main “moral” argument. He doesn’t even appear to care what happens to the money, as long as the “aristocracies” can’t keep it.

    • Part of the problem is that Williams is expressing an opinion, while the described studies are describing a fact. Milbank tends to think his opinion, because it is his, is a FACT. It isn’t and is generally wrong.

  3. Ah, eh, uh – no.

    You seem to insist on viewing this as primarily an ethical (or moral?) issue. At the very least, others disagree with you about the ethical issue itself, including such capitalist-credentialed people as Warren Buffett (who considers inherited wealth people ‘members of the lucky sperm club,’ and who opposes the dissolution of the inheritance tax, and who does not intend to make his children wealthy).

    Certainly there’s enough difference of opinion that you shouldn’t lose nose-blood over it.

    Second, I don’t get calling Milbank’s statement a “lie” for using the shorthand for tax expenditures. There’s just not that much ‘there’ there. (If we had to engineer all tax discussions to fit the Reaganite notion that all taxes are confiscatory, we’d have a helluva time even discussing government programs on any comparative basis).

    But most importantly: it is NOT primarily an ethical issue. I’d argue it’s much more significantly an economic and a social issue, and not just one of equality of opportunity or income or wealth, either.

    Picketty showed us in great detail how the relative power of inherited wealth varies greatly over time – driven primarily by three factors: the capital:income ratio, the ratio of wealth of the dead vs. the living, and the mortality rate.

    Absent any ethical issues whatsoever, the pattern of inherited wealth varies enormously over time, which raises all kinds of public policy issues. Is there really an anarchistic laissez faire argument to be made for doing absolutely nothing about those factors? Or is there some social good to be had by trying to at least ameliorate the whiplash? Because it does vary, widely, due to wars. pestilence, science, weather, and a host of other factors.

    And while we’re on that fact of historical variability, it also makes hash of your blatant claim that inherited stupidity is a better explanation of wealth than is inherited wealth. That is what you’re suggesting, isn’t it, by suggesting that the confirmation bias explains those who hold the opposite point of view?

    But Jack, if that were the case, then wouldn’t we see fairly stable patterns over time in inherited wealth? Stipulate that all else equal, stupid people have stupid kids. And all else equal, rich kids inherit more wealth.

    The question is, which is more true when things are, as they always are, not equal? You seem to suggested inherited stupidity is the more important driver. But it seems to me that human stupidity should be fairly constant (unless you believe stupid people are frequently marrying smart people); whereas mortality rates, and the capital:income ratio are far more variable, given things like wars.

    And the DATA seem to show that wealth varies a lot – which would support the Ann Richards theory (born on third base) as a better explanation than the theory of stupid people (which ought to yield far more constant patterns in wealth).

    All of which is to say – my advice is don’t emulate Lewis Black on this one.

    • Charles Green: “Warren Buffett (who considers inherited wealth people ‘members of the lucky sperm club,’ and who opposes the dissolution of the inheritance tax, and who does not intend to make his children wealthy).”

      Is that the same Warren Buffett that donated several BILLIONS of dollars to Bill Gates’s foundation (I think it was like 38 Billion), thereby depriving the federal government of those BILLIONS of dollars it could have used to bail out General Motors. When he decides to give his wealth to the Government directly, I may consider his opinion. Until then, I will happily let him do what he wants with his own money and he can shut the fuck up about what I want to do with mine.

      “Second, I don’t get calling Milbank’s statement a “lie” for using the shorthand for tax expenditures.”

      I disagree. The language is deceptive. Liberals will talk about whether we can “afford” tax cuts, or they ask “how can we pay for these cuts”. It would be as if my boss said he was going to fire me or reduce my revenue source to $0.00, and I object because that cut has not been paid for. It fundamentally confuses a “payable” with “receivable.” Taxes are a “receivable”; that is what you expect to come in. What you can afford is a “payable”; that is something that goes out. A decrease in a receivable is not something you have to figure out how to afford, except to the extent that you have to decrease your payables to fall in line with what is coming in.

      It is deceptive language and Milbank is either trying to be deceptive, or he has been deceived.

      -Jut

      • I don’t understand the metaphor of receivable/payable, nor for that matter the parallel of having your salary cut. I don’t get what you’re trying to say.

        • Payable: Something you have to expend resources you own on.

          Receivable: Resources you expect to come in.

          If you cut taxes (or have your salary cut), you don’t have to pay for it… but you no longer have the resources to pay for something else. Although money is fungible, a loss of revenue is different in kind from an increased expense.

          The problem with the salary metaphor is that the person making the decision is not the person receiving the funds, while government taxation they at least overlap. The electorate has some control over government decisions, but the principal agent is the representative, not the taxpayers.

          Does that clarify the metaphor and terminology for you?

          • Very succinct, Phlinn, and very accurate. I recall hearing news stories about Congressional members trying to get a tax cut and other members saying “How are you going to pay for it?” Almost like the accounts payable was fixed and immutable, could not be changed or reduced. My response has almost always been “Stop spending so damn much money.”

            • Dragin_dragin: What you’re suggesting is that it makes no difference what you cut, as long as the total numbers are less. I’d suggest that is a terrible way to view any public policy debate – to effectively say that between highways and schools and police and education and libraries, none are any more or less important than any others – and we should just have less of all of them.

              You’re not alone in thinking that, but it’s indiscriminate and irresponsible just the same.

              • And, as usual, you are quite wrong in your assumptions about what I am thinking. As you are about a government budget being a political instrument that is too difficult to change, therefore is sacrosanct. That kind of thinking is why we are $17 trillion in debt and counting. To be fair, a lot of that debt is to ourselves in the form of T-bills issued to the Federal Reserve, nonetheless, it is a debt. In actual fact, there is a great deal of spending done by the Fed that it is NOT authorized by the Constitution to spend. Cutting that out would reduce the bottom line markedly. That way, the budget, which should originate in the White House, be approved by the House (presumably with changes, since that is what they do best) then the Senate, and finally ignored by the President can always be up-to-date and, with any luck, have a considerably smaller bottom line than now.

          • Phlinn, it clarifies the terminology, thanks, but I would argue the metaphor is fundamentally flawed.

            In a world dominated solely by balance sheets, that is a valid metaphor. A decrease in receivables must be matched somehow, presumably a decrease in payables, and so forth.

            Not so when it comes to government. In government there is this thing called a budget. A budget is the result of a political discussion, an agreement to spend certain monies in certain ways. If you change one side of the balance sheet, you can’t just willy-nilly change the other side without rejiggering the entire political agreement underlying the budget.

            In the private sector, a budget is just a plan to get somewhere in a period of time. In the public sector, a budget is a political agreement about how the State shall use the funds provided by the public.

            In a company, it doesn’t make much difference where you get the funds from, the point is to maximize the bottom line over time. But in a government, the whole point is to expend funds, and raise them, in a politically agreed-upon manner for the (presumably) good of society.

            This is why public sector accounting is so incredibly focused on sequential approvals, and on distinct fund accounting, whereas GAAP is pretty much solely concerned with the integrity of the bottom line.

            So when JutGory says, “A decrease in a receivable is not something you have to figure out how to afford, except to the extent that you have to decrease your payables to fall in line with what is coming in,” he’s talking private sector, not government. In the private sector, it doesn’t much matter.

            But in government, a decrease in a payable is far more than an automatic adjustment to match lowered income – it’s an attempted re-contracting of a social compact. And it shouldn’t be done lightly by people whose sole motive is just to reduce government. In simple terms, who bears the payable cuts is just as important an idea as who benefits from the receivables cuts.

            So when people say “how can we pay for these cuts,” they’re talking about a fundamental responsibility of government. If you’re going to re-jigger a political agreement about the sources and uses of society’s resources, you can’t just look at “receivables” and blithely assume the difference in “payables” is inconsequential.

    • Absent any ethical issues whatsoever, the pattern of inherited wealth varies enormously over time, which raises all kinds of public policy issues. Is there really an anarchistic laissez faire argument to be made for doing absolutely nothing about those factors? Or is there some social good to be had by trying to at least ameliorate the whiplash? Because it does vary, widely, due to wars. pestilence, science, weather, and a host of other factors.

      Why should it be the government’s problem. I agree with Walter E. Williams when he wrote that we must ” examine whether there is injustice in the rules of the economic game”. I do not view inheritance – or the lack of an inheritance tax- as unjust. Laws that have the effect of making it more expensive to sell goods and services, or to reduce opportunities to find a job, may be unjust.

  4. By the way, I wish I’d had your “predatory” 9% mortgage: I paid a rate of 16% on my first house back in the late 70s; and I got out from under it with no help from my folks, who wouldn’t have had enough to make much difference anyway.

  5. ” I don’t get calling Milbank’s statement a “lie” for using the shorthand for tax expenditures. There’s just not that much ‘there’ there. (If we had to engineer all tax discussions to fit the Reaganite notion that all taxes are confiscatory, we’d have a helluva time even discussing government programs on any comparative basis). ”

    You do see the irony in that statement coming for a progressive don’t you?

    • Interesting thought. Honestly, wyogranny, I do not see the irony in it; on reflection, I think I get what you mean, but I think the ‘irony’ is best perceived by those with conservative glasses.

      Picture a tax system that taxes EVERYTHING (wages, tips, interest, dividends…) at 10% – with ONE single exception (say, home mortgage). How do you describe that system?

      Choice a: You discuss it by listing everything that is taxed – hundreds of items; and in some discussions, you mention a decision not to tax home mortgage interest.
      Choice b: You call it a universal 10% tax, with one single exception – home mortgage interest.

      Just linguistically, choice b is the commonsense natural way to talk about it. And to call the home mortgage interest deduction a “tax expenditure” in such an environment is the most efficient, communicative, obvious, commonsensical way to talk about tax policy. And, I’d suggest, our existing system looks more like choice b than choice a.

      Now that I think of it, I’m not even sure I can envision your sense of ‘irony’ coming out of the situation. Help me out, where’s the irony?

  6. Jack, I commented about the Milbank attitude toward private wealth one other time that I can recall. (But I don’t remember in which thread.) I’ll say again (probably not the same way I said it then): My best defense against Milbankism – that is, the corrupt and even criminal authorities’ attitude toward my wealth, which is to consider it THEIR wealth – will be a good offense. When I die, I will be utterly sold-out, divested and destitute – with all previously held wealth already previously distributed to whom my intended heirs would be, such that the total revenue that a Milbankist government can take from me (and my “heirs”) will be ZERO. Let the Milbankists try to make money off of my corpse – if they can find it.

  7. “No one I have read has had the audacity to even suggest that the most logical conclusion may explain the phenomenon: unsuccessful people tend to be less intelligent than successful people…”

    Among honest researchers, it is trivially obvious that unsuccessful people are less intelligent than the successful. What appears to be remarkable is the magnitude of the observable neural differences between those who are impoverished, and those who are not. The brain is an extremely malleable organ, and with care and proper education, can continue to grow new neurons throughout one’s life. Brain injuries, however, can impede (though not necessarily entirely prevent) new neural growth. That the researchers are seeing such dramatic differences would strongly suggest some sort of active damage is occurring to those growing up in poverty.

    Brain health directly reflects on overall body health. Obesity, for instance, places greater strain on the heart, and thus affects blood flow to the brain. Cholesterol plaques that clog arteries can subtly interfere with oxygen and nutrient delivery to the brain. Diabetes, too, interferes with blood sugar, which interferes with properly powering the brain, which leads to less neural growth. Stress hormones, often exacerbated by poor health, affect the balance of hormones in the brain, affecting clarity of thought and impeding new neural connections; learning itself is more difficult under stress.

    Given that those in poverty experience these health effects in greater proportion, it is really not a huge leap to conclude that nutrition and stress are the immediate cause of the relatively poor neural growth among those in poverty. I say the “immediate cause”, because stress and poor nutrition likely stem from lower intelligence and collective poor judgement among those who are unsuccessful.

    For those who are in poverty, there is a viscous feedback loop that captures individuals in poverty. Fewer resources leads to poor nutrition and poor education; few resources leads to more work, leading to less time directly raising and stimulating creative play with children. Poor education leads to poor nutrition choices. Less time raising children plus poor education leads to poor habits being taught to children. Poor habits taught to children leads to culture rot. Culture rot leads to poverty.

    The new study now suggests that “culture rot” may literally “rot” the brain!

    Brain surface area is not directly indicative of intelligence or potential for success. The brain grows and shrinks in direct response to its environment. Thus it is not useful to say the poor have smaller brains because they are less intelligent; the lack of of intelligence could only be an indirect cause of the reduced neural development. However, efforts to improve the intelligence by improving the culture may have a dramatic effect on neural health. Improved neural health may also have a dramatic effect on the culture; a positive feedback loop!

    What interventions would be helpful in reforming the culture of poverty remain to be seen. Depression era families, financially poor but culturally rich, might be a precedent to look into…

    • What “new study” are you talking about? A reference please? (And by the way, it’s not a “viscous” feedback look, it’s a “vicious” feedback loop; at least I think that’s what you mean).

      You mention education, nutrition, less time for kids’ nurturing, all of which are true and valid. But then you make this unsubstantiated jump to “culture rot,” as if that’s the last step in a causal chain.

      WHAT? What study are you talking about? What data show that “culture rot” is a primary driver of poverty?

      While there’s certainly a lot of truth in what you say – I agree that you’ll find that intelligence positively correlates with success, and vice versa – I think you’d have a hard time proving that the direct causal effects of things like nutrition actually drive poverty MORE THAN other effects. That’s the kind of logic that led us to things like phrenology a century ago.

      It’s very seductive to think that victims cause their own demise, because there’s always just a little bit of truth in it. But when we’ve got a history of overstating that truth (phrenology, racial purity movements, et al) it’s incumbent on us to be a little more databased when it comes to such generalizations. (And again, where’s the study you mention?)

      As I noted in the above comment, it’s been shown in Picketty’s work that the MAIN driver of changes in wealth (at a national level – France and the US) is not biological, but political – wars, depressions, etc. So there’s a real study that contradicts what you’re asserting.

      This obsession with finding the roots of poverty in things like culture has the attraction of sounding right, and having an undeniable kernel of truth. There’s little doubt that a steady diet of gangsta rap is not going to prep you for corporate success. But it’s a huge jump from that kind of observation to suggest that the vicious loop includes that critical link of “culture rot leads to poverty.”

      For example: a lack of exposure to technology in early life; poor elementary education; a need to commute excessive hours; a high rate of incarceration in minority communities – there are studies that show links of all these factors to poverty. But where’s the link that says “culture rot” carries even half the explanatory weight of some of these other directly environmental causes? I’m not seeing it.

  8. About twenty years ago, I read a duplicate original of The Magna Carta in, I think, Winchester Cathedal, I think. I love it. It’s very simple. It’s kind of like a big napkin upon which a bunch of people sitting around a table got he King to agree to stop doing a bunch of bad things to them, such as, commandeering their horses, or crops, or peasants without paying for them simply because the King had found a neat war he’d decided to get into. They’d had enough and they weren’t going to take it any more. If people won’t read the Constitution, they should at least take a crack at the Large Card.

  9. Fascinating reading: The Magna Carta Myth, “http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/20/the-rule-of-history.”

    For example, only four of its original 60-some provisions are still on the books in the UK.

    • That explains a lot about the present day state of Britain, doesn’t it, Charles? Now imagine where America will be in the next twenty years if some of your buddies have their way and gut the entire Bill of Rights… if not the entire Constitution.

      • Stvplln, I suggest you read the article before you attempt to guess what it explains and what it doesn’t explain. Clearly you haven’t done so.

      • Just an FYI, Steve, King John Lackland (Richard Lionheart’s brother. Go figure) tore the first one up. He was sort of forced to sign the one at Runnymede, and even then, started another of Britain’s civil wars in order to get out of honoring it. Embarrassingly, he died of dysentery.

        • And that’s just the beginning.

          In contrast to Stvplln’s charming fiction that it was “a bunch of people sitting around a table got the King to agree to stop doing a bunch of bad things to them,” it was written in Latin; the King and the barons spoke French, and the peasants spoke English. An English translation wasn’t printed until the 1500s – 300 years after the event itself.

          And how we’ve got this Disney version of history that it was, as Stvplln says, a Big Napkin being written on by a bunch of guys around a table. Not so much.

          • Okay, Charlie.

            First: The Magna Carta was indeed written in Latin because that was the language of the Church and the lingua franca of medieval times. The baronage was largely of the invading Normans who spoke a dialect of French while the commoners largely spoke Old English (or Saxon). It would be several centuries in the future before the two languages merged to form modern English.

            Second: This is entirely irrelevant to the theme. It was you yourself who made the statement (out of nowhere) that only 4 provisions of the Magna Carta were still part of English law. I, in turn, made the statement that this had hardly worked to improve the present state of Britain, as you seem to indicate it had, and that this was hardly a justification for overthrowing the U.S. Constitution- an analogy that you seemed to be forwarding.

            Third: The comparison between the Magna Carta and the Constitution is valid only as it pertains to the concepts of innumerated rights and that no person should have the power to supercede the law. With the Magna Carta, this was mainly a statement of baronial rights with little regard for the commonality, but it was a step toward the Bill of Rights six centuries later. The point I was trying to make is that the Bill is needed today more than ever and the British lack of an analogous document has led to a frightening degradation of their own traditional rights.

            Fourth: Charles; I don’t know if you were honestly confused or whether you were trying to misdirect the issue in order to get some arrogant jibes in at your perceived intellectual inferiors. “Disney History”?! From what I’ve seen of a lot of modern college kids- whose ignorance of just about everything except leftist political doctrine is astounding- I would be fully in favor of sitting them in a theater (forcibly, if necessary!) and running a few old films to assuage their lack of historical knowledge, along with their unknowing of just how little they know about anything positive or worthwhile. While I was at it, I might just feed them the Bell Telephone Science Series. It might be half a century old, but it would probably still be a whole new world to a lot of them!

            Five: BTW, Chuck; if you actually believe that the Bill of Rights is outdated and should be replaced, you might want to cool your advocacy a bit for the present. There are a lot of people in this country who cherish our heritage of freedom and don’t want America to wind up a persecuted and fallen nation as Britain has. Maybe they SHOULD have kept those missing provisions- expanded the scope to include the commoners- and made it part of a constitution! Their failure to have one gave their internal enemies a means of eroding away their freedoms. In America, the Left must first erode away the Constitution. Not yet, Chuck. You’ll need armed force to make that stick.

            • Get off your high horse SMP.

              I started by mentioning an article, in response to Other Bill’s mention of the Magna Carta. I called it “fascinating,” and gave an example. Period.

              From this you rushed to the conclusion that “my buddies” would “gut the entire bill of rights.”

              What? Where do you get off drawing such inferences?

              Dragin-Dragon then weighed in with some more interesting historical information, and I added a bit more to counter the simple view of history that tends to surround the Magna Carta. Again, I recommend the article to anyone deeply interested in how it came to be so influential and revered.

              From all of this, you somehow conclude that I “actually believe that the Bill of Rights is outdated and should be replaced.” What in the world gave you that idea?

              You somehow conclude that I am “forwarding an analogy” that would justify “overthrowing the Constitution.”

              Again, What? Where do you get off drawing such inferences?

              For what it’s worth – obviously not much – I completely agree with you the usefulness of educating the young today about the history and importance and relevance of the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. Which is why I find it bizarre that you, who clearly are capable of doing historical research, would get in such high dudgeon about someone citing an historical article. What I’m against is what I called the Disneyfication of history, which the simplistic “sitting round the fire” narrative is. Definitely bring on the Bell Telephone series, I agree! And read the article I cited while you’re at it.

              Finally, you are asserting something here that I’m not competent to comment on, but maybe someone else is. You seem to claim that if Britain had held on to the rest of the articles in the Magna Carta they would not have had so many eroded freedoms. I’d like to know where you get the “eroded freedoms” idea from. Also, most of the clauses you suggest they should not have removed had to do with extremely arcane processes for things like medieval wheat processing and the like; the point is not that we kept clauses they didn’t, the point is that most of the clauses of this important historical document were in fact pretty much irrelevant to our modern understanding of liberty.

              History – I would argue it’s a good thing to know. Go read that article; again, it’s
              tp://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/20/the-rule-of-history

              And stop blathering about whether I’ll need armed force to overthrow the constitution.

  10. Charles: It’s certainly a twist of irony to see you tell someone- anyone- to get off their “high horse”. Having read (often laboriously) your previous posts, I think I pretty well have a grasp on your philosophy and politics. Now; all this seems to have exploded when I made the innocuous remark that maybe if Britain had retained more of the Great Charter in their present day laws (along with the values they represented) it might not be in its present predicament. Obviously, you regarded that as a mortal insult. The only way that could be is by my puncturing the liberal view of Britain as a worker’s paradise and supporting a document that liberals traditionally despise and which descended from that Charter; the Bill of Rights. Thus my comments. And no, I wasn’t “blathering” about your needing armed force to finally destroy the Constitution. You will, BTW, but I have no expectation of your being anywhere near the battlefield should someone actually try it.

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